Airline: Qantas Airlines
Crew Position: First Officer
Domicile: Melbourne, Australia
What is the year and location of the flight school you attended?
Kathleen: I started learning to fly when I was 15 years old, in 2006. I learnt at Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne, VIC. I was still in High school so I only flew on the weekends. In Australia we can’t get a drivers licence until we are 18 years old. I was allowed to fly a plane by myself, but my parents would still drive me to the airport.
What airplanes have you flown during your career?
General Aviation: Cessna: 172, 182 and 210, Piper: PA28, P28T, PA31, BN-2 and G58
Airlines: Dash-8: 200, 300 and 400. Boeing 787 and 737.
Have you had/have any mentors throughout the years?
Kathleen: I got my first flying job when I was 19 years old. The Chief Pilot of my company I worked for, was well liked by everyone and he definitely became a mentor to me during my first few years in the Industry. It is only on reflection that I realise he was a mentor to me, I didn’t know it at the time. Once I moved into the airlines at 22, I didn’t have a mentor as such, but if I ever had any questions, I would just ask my work colleagues. I think it is great that mentorships are becoming common and I believe many will benefit from having one. In the last few years I’ve met many amazing women pilots who I look up to and speak to for guidance.
How did you get interested in aviation?
Kathleen: I always liked planes and the idea of going on holidays. It wasn’t until I was 15 that my dad casually mentioned that he once had his private pilot’s licence. He flew before I was born and never had mentioned it previously. This completely fascinated me as I had never even thought about actually flying a plane. During this conversation with my Dad, he saw my excitement and asked if I wanted to do a trial flying lesson. I said yes and so he booked a lesson on the spot, for two weeks later. I still remember that flight so well, as if it happened yesterday. After I landed from that first flight I told my family, that’s my life sorted. I wanted to be a Pilot.
Do you have any future aviation goals you hope to achieve?
Kathleen: I always told myself that I wanted to be a first officer on the 737 before I had kids. I achieved this goal in 2019 before having my first baby, in 2020. My next goal would be to fly the 787 as a First Officer, working my way up over time to becoming a Qantas Captain. Wherever I end up and on whatever aeroplane, it will all be a part of the journey. There is always so much to learn and new avenues to venture into, I am excited to see what happens.
Do you live in base or commute?
Kathleen: I am lucky that I both live and am based in Melbourne.
What have been some recent challenges you have faced?
Kathleen: Recent challenges would definitely have to be due to COVID. Last year in 2020, Melbourne went through two lockdown periods of a few months each. I happened to have my first baby between those two lockdowns, on the 29th of May. Lots of pilots in Australia were being made redundant or stood down due to COVID. My husband Nick who is a second officer on the 787, was stood down and will remain stood down until International flying returns. Because of his job being on hold, I returned to domestic flying in November. My son was 5 months old. It was earlier than I originally anticipated but I was also very happy (and fortunate) to be able to return to the skies. Trying to navigate being back at work with a baby has been challenging yet also rewarding. We are lucky to have lots of family support and my husband is home full time at the moment.
What would you say to girls looking to become an airline pilot?
Kathleen: I would tell them to go for it as it is a very rewarding career. Passion and drive will get you far in life.
What do you feel is a benefit to being an ISA+21 member?
Kathleen: This is a big, continuously growing group of women with a shared passion for flying. When I started out flying, I didn’t know of, or meet another female pilot for a few years. Now, I have met hundreds of women pilots from all around the world. With a yearly conference we also get the opportunity to all catch up in person, share our stories and grow friendships.